Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Bookmark and Share

May 2010  •  Volume XIII, Issue 1


Psalms 1 and 2 on Uncommon Grace

In the last four issues of the News, we have considered five Psalms (5, 11, 69, 73 and 92) which oppose the false doctrine of common grace. But the Psalms have a lot more to say in support of God’s sovereign, particular and uncommon grace. Given the importance of this subject and the considerable interest and support of our readers—some even mentioning specific Psalms they wanted included—I propose to treat more Psalms, beginning with the first and second Psalms.

The first word of the first Psalm, in both Hebrew and English, is "blessed," a key word in the debate over common grace. A "blessed" man (Ps. 1:1) is one blessed and made happy by God’s bringing him into living communion with Himself. That God blesses us means that He has a favourable attitude of grace and pity towards us, that He inwardly and graciously restrains sin in us and that He enables us to do good works which are pleasing in His eyes through Jesus Christ. The way of blessedness and happiness for us as God’s people is that of practising the antithesis, spiritual separation from the ungodly—no "walking," "standing" or "sitting" in fellowship with them (1). Verse 1 is contrary to the notion of many advocates of common grace that believers are to be friends with unbelievers and should cooperate with "non-Christians of good will" in building the kingdom of God on earth. Whereas verse 1 states, negatively, what the blessed man does not do, verse 2 sets forth, positively, his delight in, and meditation upon, God’s Word. Avoiding the wicked (1) and feasting upon the holy Scriptures (2), the faithful saint is likened to a well-watered, fruit-bearing tree (3).

The second half of the first Psalm turns to the wicked (4-6), beginning with the simple, devastating statement: "The ungodly are not so" (4). Contrary to God’s people (1-2), the unconverted fellowship together in their sin and despise God’s Word. Whereas the godly man is "blessed" (1), the "ungodly are not so" (4). God’s attitude towards them is not one of love and favour but of wrath. Jehovah does not work graciously in them to restrain sin and make their works partly righteous in His eyes. They bring forth no good "fruit" and do not "prosper" spiritually (3). There is no common grace here!

Psalm 1:6 observes that "the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish." Obviously, the omniscient God "knows" the ways of both believers and unbelievers, if "know" here simply means "be aware of intellectually." This text is, therefore, saying that Jehovah "knows [with the intimate knowledge of love]" the "way" (i.e., lifestyle, behaviour) of His saints. The Hebrew parallelism of Psalm 1:6 teaches us that God does not "know" (i.e., love) the "way" (i.e., lifestyle, behaviour) of the wicked; He hates their "way" because the reprobate are totally depraved, as are all their works (Prov. 6:16-19; Rom. 3:10-18). Thus not only will the wicked be condemned in the great judgment day (Ps. 1:5) and be driven away like chaff before the wind (4), but also God so detests their behaviour and lifestyle that even "the way of the ungodly shall perish" (6)!

Psalm 2 provides an excellent refutation of common grace and what it is supposed to be able to do. The "heathen," the "people," the "kings of the earth" and the "rulers" (1-2) are the Jews and the Gentiles and their leaders, Herod and Pontius Pilate, according to Acts 4:25-28.

According to the common grace theory, the Roman empire and people with their earthly dominion, military supremacy, material prosperity, superb roads, developed jurisprudence and high level of civilization were greatly blessed by God. Whereas the pagan Romans had the most common grace politically, the unbelieving Jews supposedly had the most common grace religiously (through their external possession of the law and their physical descent from Abraham, etc.).

But what did the ungodly Romans and Jews do with all this alleged love of God for them and towards them and upon them and in them? Psalm 2 tells that they attacked Jehovah and "his anointed" (2) or Messiah (from the Hebrew) or Christ (from the Greek) and nailed God’s incarnate Son to the cross! These supposed promoters of "natural law" (the Romans) and Old Testament law (the Jews) rejected God’s law and cast away His "bands" and "cords" (3). So much for the good works produced by common grace!

Did these wicked Jews and Gentiles thwart God’s purpose of saving His people and exalting his Son? No! "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion" (6). Is there any divine love for these unbelievers who had received so many good things in God’s providence (not grace)? No! The Lord laughs at them and derides them (4). He does not bless or speak good of, or to, them; He speaks to them "in his wrath" (5). He is in no way pleased with them or their works; He vexes "them in his sore displeasure" (5).

Christ’s crucifixion is followed by His resurrection (7; Acts 13:33) and session at God’s right hand (Ps. 2:6) and rule over all nations (8-9). And what about Christ’s providential government of the reprobate wicked? Is it partly a rule of love for them and partly a rule of holy wrath against them? No, it is entirely the latter: "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel" (9). In theological terms, the elect are under Christ’s reign of grace; the reprobate are under His reign of power (not grace).

The call of the gospel goes out in Psalm 2: "trust" in Christ (12), "be wise" and "be instructed" (10). "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling" (11). "Kiss the Son"—an act of homage and submission—otherwise you will "perish" under His anger and "wrath," even when "kindled but a little" (12).

Psalm 2 ends the way Psalm 1 begins, with an affirmation of the blessedness of God’s elect people: "Blessed are all they that put their trust in him" (Ps. 2:12). Those who do not believe are not blessed but cursed (Gal. 3:6-14; Deut. 27:11-28:68). Rev. Stewart

A Qualification for Office-Bearers

Question: "How do you understand Titus 1:6 (‘If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly’)? Is the elder supposed to have just well-behaved children or children who are believers? If they are young children they must be kept under control (I Tim. 3:4). My understanding is that an elder must have children who believe if they are older children. Young children are not accused of dissipation or rebellion. How old must one be to be an elder and do we know how old Titus was at the time he was appointing elders in Crete?"

Titus is mentioned eight times in II Corinthians, for he was sent to Corinth after the writing of I Corinthians to learn how that letter was received. Paul was scheduled to meet Titus again in Macedonia and was much disturbed by a delay in Titus’ return. Earlier, Paul took Titus to Jerusalem for the synod there. Paul did not have him circumcised, nor was he compelled to do this, even though the circumcision of the Gentiles was the major point at issue at the time of the synod. So Titus was a Gentile convert, who later became pastor of the church on Crete. To read the epistle to Titus gives one the distinct impression that he was a very gifted and faithful minister in a difficult island. Titus was instructed to meet Paul at Nicopolis in the winter (Titus 3:12); just prior to the apostle’s death, Titus was in Dalmatia (II Tim. 4:10).

There is no indication of Titus’ age at the time of his conversion or his assuming his responsibilities in Crete. The Holy Spirit apparently did not consider that information necessary for our understanding of the Scriptures.

The other question involves a qualification of elders in the church. It must, therefore, be considered in connection with the text from I Timothy, also mentioned by the questioner. That passage reads, "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" (3:4-5).

The age of the children is not important in understanding this qualification. We must take the two passages together, for Paul would not write one qualification for elders to serve in Ephesus (where Timothy worked) and another qualification for elders in Crete (where Titus laboured). I take, therefore, the position that the qualification given in Paul’s letter to Titus is looking at the qualification given in I Timothy 3 from a slightly different viewpoint. The point at issue here is this: Does a man rule his own household well? God has appointed the man the head of the home. He is the prophet, priest and king. He must rule in Christ’s name and is the one ultimately responsible for the welfare of the house. If he cannot rule his own household well, he will certainly be unable to rule in the church of Christ. It may very well be that the apostle goes from the lesser to the greater, especially in the sense of responsibility and difficulty.

There are men who do not know how to rule their house. Some are too permissive when it comes to the conduct of their child. Some think that their child can never do anything wrong. Some fathers are tyrants who gain obedience from their children through fear. Some simply ignore their children and have no time for instructing them.

I cannot go into all that is involved in a father’s obligations to rule his house well, but the heart of the matter is that a father must pattern his ruling after the way God rules His children. He must love his children for God’s sake. He must seek their spiritual good. He must show them the ways of God’s covenant and insist that they walk in those ways. As God instructs us, so we must instruct our children. As God is patient with us in our weaknesses, we must be patient with out children. As God chastises us when we do wrong, so we must chastise when our children do wrong.

The result will be that children honour, respect and love their parents and are obedient to them. There is order, decency, happiness and genuine spirituality in the home. A man cannot rule the church if he cannot rule his family.

One who has this qualification for elder will probably also have well-behaved children, if by "well-behaved" is meant not only honour, love and respect for parents, but also the need for confession of sin when wrong is done. But the qualification is for fathers, not children. A family can conceivably have an unruly child even though his household is a godly home where Christ rules.

It is not possible to make faith in a child a condition for a well-ruled home. When the children are small, we do not know whether they are believers or not. We never know with absolute certainty. And a very well-behaved son or daughter may, at a later period in life, even when out of the house, go far astray. It is also possible that such a one returns again to the church. We exercise the judgment of charity: we consider our children to be children of God unless they show clear evidence that they are not sorry for their sins and do not confess them to God. But let us remember that the qualification here mentioned in both I Timothy and Titus is of the father, not the children. A man eminently qualified for elder may have an older son who goes astray, and is, in the words of the reader, dissipate and rebellious.

A parent that rules his own home well may, if necessary, forbid his son or daughter to live in the home.  When a child grows up and becomes an adult or responsible young person, though still home, that person is still subject to the rules of the house. It is obligatory on the child that he walk in the ways of God’s covenant. If he refuses, he must be told that he must leave the home. That too qualifies a man to be an elder, for he is ruling well his house, if he forbids one of his children to remain at home.

The church desperately needs men qualified for the office of elder (and deacon). The saints ought to pray that God will provide His church with such men. And, men ought to hear what Paul says in I Timothy 3:1: "If a man desire the office of a bishop [i.e., elder], he desireth a good work."  Prof. Hanko

If you would like to receive the Covenant Reformed News free by e-mail each month (and/or by post, if you are in the UK), please contact Rev. Stewart and we will gladly send it to you.